Gas tank fills are almost always on the driver’s side of the car and thieves like it that way. Hurried and distracted motorists become easy marks for grab and go bandits who are now victimizing customers of gas stations on the east coast.
So pervasive is the practice that the WMDA, a service station trade group with members from Washington DC to Delaware has sent out advisory e-mails to its members to be on guard for the perpetrators. The Metropolitan Police Department of Washington DC has devoted a page of their website to this type of crime.
How it is done
Although there are number of variations of the crime one method cited is that while the motorist is distracted pumping gas, a vehicle, sometimes two, arrives alongside. A thief then exists one of the cars and while hunched over and out of sight opens the passenger’s door stealing whatever has been left on the seat.
It could be while the customer has gone inside to pay or purchase other items, but often it is while gas is being pumped and the owner is only feet away. With the stolen goods in hand the vehicles speed away. It is over in a matter of seconds.
How to avoid being a victim
The Metropolitan Police Department offers these tips:
- · Pick your fueling station carefully looking for cameras at the pumps and areas that are well lit
- · Make a list of stations on your daily route that pass your test and factor in the surrounding area, for instance stations with neighboring police barracks or fire houses would be good choices
- · Always lock your doors while keeping valuables out of sight and keep the panic button of your keyless entry fob at the ready
- · Be selective in choosing your pump noting your surroundings and your vehicle’s proximity to the cashier
- · Don’t add the distraction of a cell phone conversation to the mix
Aftermath turns deadly
One of these crimes of opportunity turned deadly on a stretch of I95 in Maryland recently. A Prince George’s County police officer was killed when his patrol car ran off the interstate and he was thrown from the vehicle. He and his partner were chasing an Acura suspected to be involved in an attempt to remove articles from cars while being filled up at a Laurel gas station.
Trips to the gas station are stressful enough without a threat to personal treasure or safety, so take whatever precautions are needed to stay safe.
Vehicle in Fatal Officer Crash Found in Southeast D.C., nbcwashington.com
Gas Station Safety, Metropolitan Police Department